Cognitive Flexibility in Drawings of Bilingual Children


  • The authors thank Professor Norman Freeman and Dr. Gil Deisendruck for comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.

concerning this article should be addressed to Esther Adi-Japha, School of Education, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan 52900, Israel. Electronic mail may be sent to


A. Karmiloff-Smith’s (1990) task of drawing a nonexistent object is considered to be a measure of cognitive flexibility. The notion of earlier emergence of cognitive flexibility in bilingual children motivated the current researchers to request 4- and 5-year-old English–Hebrew and Arabic–Hebrew bilingual children and their monolingual peers to draw a flower and a house that do not exist (N = 80). Bilinguals exhibited a significantly higher rate of interrepresentational flexibility in their drawings (e.g., “a giraffe flower,”“a chair-house,” found in 28 of 54 drawings), whereas the level of complex intrarepresentational change was similar across groups. Interrepresentational drawings were previously reported only for children older than 7 years. The specific mechanisms by which bilinguals’ language experience may lead to interrepresentational flexibility are discussed.